Chinese New Year
By Lynda Hull
The dragon is in the street dancing beneath windows
pasted with colored squares, past the man
who leans into the phone booth’s red pagoda, past
crates of doves and roosters veiled
until dawn. Fireworks complicate the streets
with sulphur as people exchange gold
and silver foil, money to appease ghosts
who linger, needy even in death. I am
almost invisible. Hands could pass through me
effortlessly. This is how it is
to be so alien that my name falls from me, grows
untranslatable as the shop signs,
the odors of ginseng and black fungus that idle
in the stairwell, the corridor where
the doors are blue months ajar. Hands
gesture in the smoke, the partial moon
of a face. For hours the soft numeric
click of mah-jongg tiles drifts
down the hallway where languid Mai trails
her musk of sex and narcotics.
There is no grief in this, only the old year
consuming itself, the door knob blazing
in my hand beneath the lightbulb’s electric jewel.
Between voices and fireworks
wind works bricks to dust—hush, hush—
no language I want to learn. I can touch
the sill worn by hands I’ll never know
in this room with its low table
where I brew chrysanthemum tea. The sign
for Jade Palace sheds green corollas
on the floor. It’s dangerous to stand here
in the chastening glow, darkening
my eyes in the mirror with the gulf of the rest
of my life widening away from me, waiting
for the man I married to pass beneath
the sign of the building, to climb
the five flights and say his Chinese name for me.
He’ll rise up out of the puzzling streets
where men pass bottles of rice liquor, where
the new year is liquor, the black bottle
the whole district is waiting for, like
some benevolent arrest—the moment
when men and women turn to each other and dissolve
each bad bet, every sly mischance,
the dalliance of hands. They turn in lamplight
the way I turn now. Wai Min is in the doorway.
He brings fish. He brings lotus root.
He brings me ghost money.
Saturday morning was the opening of more than a week of Lunar New Year festivities at Lakeforest Mall, so after establishing that the groundhog had not seen his shadow so we can be certain that winter will end soon, we went to see the celebration, presided over by the governor's wife and a bunch of state and local politicians. After the dragon and lion dances and some of the martial arts, we had lunch at House of Kabob, then went to Giant, stopping at a couple of Palkia raids on the way.
Since it was Imbolc/Candlemas and therefore Jour des Crepes in France, Paul made crepes for dinner, then chocolate crepes for dessert which we ate while watching the senior Dog and Cat Bowls (Puppy and Kitten Bowls are Sunday before the Super Bowl) around the episode of Victoria we missed last weekend, which I did not love, too pro-monarchist for me. Because SNL isn't new, now we're watching Little Shop of Horrors, which remains just as wrong and entertaining as ever!